Geary et al. v. City of Pacifica (RV Parking)
In late 2019, Pacifica passed an ordinance prohibiting “oversized vehicle” parking. The ordinance made it illegal to park an RV at any time in streets throughout the city, including giving the city the discretion to prohibit RV parking based on aesthetics. Pacifica began aggressively enforcing this ordinance in September 2020 after the city council abandoned efforts to provide any parking areas for RV residents. Those who violated the ordinance were subject to escalating fines. After the third citation within 12 months, a ticket became a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months of imprisonment. If five tickets were left unpaid, the RV could be towed and impounded.
On March 15, 2021, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, Disability Rights Advocates, and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Pacifica to invalidate the law. The lawsuit argued that ordinance was a blatant attempt by the city to banish those who rely on RVs for housing and mobility.
Although the city claimed there were streets where RV residents could park without getting ticketed, haphazard signage and contradictory information made it impossible for people to know where RV parking might be allowed. Instead of providing any clear parking rule, the city was giving out tickets based on housed residents’ complaints, even when an RV was parked on a street where there was no justification for prohibiting RV parking.
The ordinance’s impact was particularly severe on people with disabilities, who already disproportionately experience homelessness. The parking ban undermined their ability to maintain their health and employment.
Shortly after filing the complaint, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking the court to immediately stop the city of Pacifica from enforcing the ordinance. The motion was filed to protect plaintiffs from suffering irreparable injuries, such as losing their homes to towing, facing incarceration, or being banished from friends and community support, while the case was being litigated. Just before a scheduled hearing on the motion, the City agreed that the Court could enter a preliminary injunction that required it to issue and publicize a list and map of streets allowable for oversized vehicle parking.
In November 2021, the parties settled the case. The City agreed to the entry of a permanent injunction requiring the City to significantly change its approach to vehicularly housed residents. Among other things, the City was required to refund fines previously imposed for violation of the RV ordinance; to preserve at least two miles of streets as allowable for OSV parking; to continue to make the list and map of “allowable” streets broadly available; and to establish a process for people with disabilities to seek accommodations relating to the parking of their vehicles. The injunction also required the City to establish a “safe parking” program for OSVs, and to set up facilities for oversized vehicles to empty their waste tanks and dispose of trash. The Court entered the injunction and approved a negotiated agreement under which the City paid plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $550,000. The injunction is available here and the map is available here.